Rape as a weapon damaging DRC

March 29, 2013 at 12:15 PM

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, March 29 (UPI) -- Sexual violence tied to fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the most urgent challenges facing the country, a U.N. official said.

The International Criminal Court last year issued an arrest warrant for DRC rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda on charges including rape and sexual slavery. He surrendered last week in Rwanda and appeared for a preliminary hearing this week at The Hague.

U.N. special envoy on sexual violence Zainab Hawa Bangura said following a visit to DRC that sexual violence is one of the more urgent challenges facing the country.

"It is important to remember that it is not only a U.N. issue, however, but one which requires the leadership, ownership, and responsibility of the government of the DRC," she said from Kinshasa.

Bangura met in DRC with British Foreign Minister William Hague, who said the consequences of sexual violence in the country were unimaginable.

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution late Thursday authorizing a so-called intervention brigade that would have the authority to target DRC militants.

The brigade will support the political objectives of an agreement for the DRC and the region signed last month in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Rights groups said the novel U.N. force would only add to a tense situation in the country.

Rebel M23 forces last year took control over parts of eastern DRC.

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